An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA04-596


Filed: 1 March 2005


v .                         Harnett County
                            No. 03 CVD 2360

    Appeal by plaintiff from judgment entered 21 January 2004 by Judge Albert A. Corbett, Jr. in Harnett County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 14 February 2005.

    Stewart Law Firm, by Christopher D. Munz, for plaintiff- appellant.

    Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A., by Gerald W. Hayes, Jr., for defendant-appellee.

    MARTIN, Chief Judge.

    Plaintiff brought this action on 10 November 2003 in the Small Claims Division of Harnett County District Court. The small claims court awarded judgment in favor of plaintiff and defendant appealed to the district court. The matter was heard by the district court sitting without a jury. The evidence at trial tended to show that plaintiff entered into a drawing to win four gallons of paint at defendant's store. After winning the drawing, plaintiff requested four gallons of exterior paint but was told by the manager that she had won four gallons of ceiling paint. Since the advertisement did not specify or limit the prize to any particular type of paint, plaintiff filed a claim against defendant for the value of theexterior paint, or in the alternative, for the paint itself.     The trial court entered judgment in favor of defendant on a pre-printed form, dismissing the complaint and taxing costs to the plaintiff. Plaintiff appeals.
    The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred by entering judgment without making findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its judgment. “[W]hen the trial court sits without a jury, the standard of review on appeal is whether there was competent evidence to support the trial court's findings of fact and whether its conclusions of law were proper in light of such facts.” Shear v. Stevens Building Co., 107 N.C. App. 154, 160, 418 S.E.2d 841, 845 (1992). Our North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “[i]n all actions tried upon the facts without a jury or with an advisory jury, the court shall find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law thereon and direct the entry of the appropriate judgment.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 52(a)(1) (2003). The purpose of the rule is “to allow a reviewing court to determine from the record whether the judgment _ and the legal conclusions which underlie it _ represent[s] a correct application of the law.” Coble v. Coble, 300 N.C. 708, 712, 268 S.E.2d 185, 189 (1980).
    Here, the trial court entered an order using a pre-printed form used only for small claim appeals. The court did not check the box which stated, “[c]ourt after hearing evidence finds the following facts”, and no factual findings were entered in the designated area. Instead, a box was checked which provided,“[a]fter hearing evidence presented, the court finds the Plaintiff/Defendant is not entitled to recover and the Complaint is dismissed, with costs taxed to the Plaintiff/Defendant.” (all emphasis original). In each instance of that statement, “Plaintiff” was circled.
    “The language of Rule 52 is mandatory; in nonjury actions, the trial court shall find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law.” Pineda-Lopez v. N.C. Growers Ass'n, 151 N.C. App. 587, 589, 566 S.E.2d 162, 164 (2002) (emphasis original). The trial court's judgment fails to comply with Rule 52(a)(1). Accordingly, we must vacate the judgment and remand this matter to the trial court for the entry of a judgment in accordance with law.
    Vacated and remanded.
    Judges McCULLOUGH and ELMORE concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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